May 31, 2011

Neutrality on Israel?

Two letters in today's Guardian, one following on from a report of the appointment of an "Israel studies professor at Oxford University and the other commending The Guardian for a report on how the Palestinian village of Lifta was ethnically cleansed in the 1940s and is now being lined up for settlement by Jews only:

Derek Penslar (First professor of Israel studies at Oxford vows neutrality, 27 May) says he will strive for political neutrality in a professorship created with a £3m donation from long-standing supporters of Israel. But claims to be politically neutral generally obscure particular political positions since "you cannot be neutral on a moving train" or while riding the back of an angry crocodile. The report shows the difficulty of achieving neutrality by referring to "the Jewish state" as one might refer to the UK as a Christian state or Egypt as a Muslim state, none of which could be seen as politically neutral positions since they elevate the power of one group of citizens above others. States are defined by their borders. So in struggling to achieve neutrality, perhaps Derek Penslar will inform us of his politically neutral position on the borders of Israel.
Tony Booth
Cambridge University
• We commend you for putting Lifta in the news (We will never forget this village, G2, 30 May). Its Palestinian population was attacked and terrorised between Christmas 1947 and February 1948 and forced to leave by Menachem Begin's IZL and Yitzhak Shamir's Stern terror gangs. By February 1948 the village was emptied and its inhabitants were trucked to East Jerusalem. Now, the Israel Land Authority plans to parcel Lifta's private land and sell it to Jewish developers in an attempt to create a luxury enclave for Jews only. The international community must not remain silent in the face of this continued theft of private Palestinian land.
Antoine Raffoul
Co-ordinator, 1948: Lest We Forget
Actually there appeared to be an error in the report on Lifta not mentioned in the letter. See this:
The development plan was approved by the Jerusalem municipality five years ago, but earlier this year the Israel Lands Administration – the state agency that took ownership of Lifta's land under the Israeli law governing property deemed to be abandoned – began marketing the plot to private developers. A legal challenge stayed the tender process, but a decision is due any day on whether to proceed. The proposal is for 212 luxury housing units, expected to be advertised to wealthy expatriate Jews, a chic hotel and shops, and a museum. It suggests that some of the ruins be restored. But Lifta as a sanctuary and de facto heritage site will be lost.
Expatriate Jews? Where might they be? The largest number of expatriate Jews, understood as Jews living away from their country of origin, lives in Palestine. It wasn't me that noticed the error, it was Frank Fisher at the Just Peace UK list.

May 30, 2011

UK academics' union rejects EUMC bogus definition of antisemitism

The congress of the Universities and Colleges Union has just voted to support motion 70, copied here from the Engage website together with David Hirsh's report of the actual proceedings:

70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism - National Executive Committee

Congress notes with concern that the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.
Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.
Congress resolves:
  1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
  2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
  3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination
1443. proposal to change the rules to allow Conference Business Committee to co-opt members between Congresses
1445.  Business of the equality committee.  Chair of the committee to move.
1448. Marion Hersh argues for Motion 66, which says that the union should be in favour of institutions carrying out equality impact assessments.  This means that things such as cuts imposed by universities shouldn’t impact on one ‘equality’ group more than another.
But there is no call that the union itself should undergo a quality impact assessment about how its policies on Israel impacts on minorities within the union.
1458.  Motion 67.  From Black members standing commitee.  Another motion about impact assessment.  remitted.
1500.  Motion 68.  Every branch should have a properly resourced Equalities Officer.
1503.  Motion 69. “defend multiculturalism”.  conratulate UAF for its opposition to the EDl.  Work with UAF and Hope Not Hate against fascism.  Defend the values of multiculturalism.
1504.  The atmosphere in conference is calm, quiet relaxed.  Nobody is cheering or booing.  Just doing business in a normal kind of way.    See if the atmosphere changes for motion 70 on the EUMC defiinition?
1505.  Ammendment: give United Against Fascism (UAF) £1000.
1509.  another speech about how the EDL’s “flash mob” tactics make it necessary for the union to give £1000 to UAF.
1511.  vote on the motion.  Surprisingly, Sally Hunt is on the platform.
1512.  Sue Blackwell to propose the motion against the EUMC.  definition adopted by NUS, parliamentary inquiry, US State Department.  In Jan 2010 Denis Mcshane tried to have Azzam Tammimi banned from speaking.  [Tammimi is Hamas's guy in London - DH]  Blackwell goes on,McShane argued that an external speaker should be rejected if they have a history of antisemitic language in line with the EUMC…”   EUMC comes from the American Jewish Committee, European Jewish Congress, self confessed lobby groups for Israel.  Ken Stern, author of EUMC is deeply concerned about “politically based antisemitism” otherwise known as antizionism which treats Israel as the classic Jew….  antisemites seek to qualify israel from membership of the community of nations.”  In other words, if you are for a boycott, you are an antisemite.  These influences are evidenced by American spellings in the document.  Definition is not fit for finding Real antisemitism but is ideal for those who want to blur boundaries between antisemitism and antizionism.
1515.  Mike Cushman, LSE.  Opponents of this motion have been filling the internet with insults against this union.  Lets see how EUMC definition is used.
One example:  a member wrote “no compromise with Zionists or university closures”.  Claimed to be antisemitic.  Linking the international with the local is part of our politics.  Not racist.  By making Israel a special case the proponents of EUMC are being antisemitic.
Cushman goes on: David Hirsh that “expert” on antisemitism says “Israel murders children is antisemitic”   Not its not, its pro children.  Antisemitism must never never  be normalized.  Puts jews at risk  Crying wolf puts the sheep and the shepherd at hazard.
Support this motion because the EUMC definition is dangerous to Jews.
1517.   Ronnie Fraser (I had this text already):
I, a Jewish member of this union, am telling you, that I feel an antisemitic mood in this union and even in this room.
I would feel your refusal to engage with the EUMC definition of antisemitism, if you pass this motion, as a racist act.
Many Jews have resigned from this union citing their experience of antisemitsim.   Only yesterday a delegate here said ‘they are an expansionist people”. It is difficult to think that the people in question are anything other than the Jews.
You may disagree with me.
You may disagree with all the other Jewish members who have said similar things.
You may think we are mistaken but you have a duty to listen seriously.
Instead of being listened to, I am routinely told that anyone who raises the issue of antisemitism is doing so in bad faith.
Congress, Imagine how it feels when you say that you are experiencing racism, and your union responds: stop lying, stop trying to play the antisemitism card.
You, a group of mainly white, non-Jewish trade unionists, do not the right to tell me, a Jew, what feels like antisemitism and what does not.
Macpherson tells us that when somebody says they have been a victim of racism, then institutions should begin by believing them. This motion mandates the union to do the opposite.
Until this union takes complaints of antisemitsim seriously the UCU will continue to be labelled as an institutionally antisemitic organisation.
It’s true that anti-Zionist Jews may perceive things differently.  But the overwhelming majority of Jews feel that there is something wrong in this union. They understand that it is legitimate to criticise Israel in a way that is, quoting from the definition, “similar to that levelled to any other country’ but they make a distinction between criticism and the kind of demonisation that is considered acceptable in this union
Ronnie met with stoney silence.
1519.  Speech against.  Pete Radcliffe, (AWL).  No definition of any form of racism can prevent misuse.  each time an accusation of racism is made it should be assessed by the specifics.
The fact that defs may have been misused is no argument that they are wrong.
What does it say?
Look at what is written.
The most controversial is where it says those who claim that the existence of the israeli state are antisemitic.  Consider the peaceniks and the Israeli peace movement.  The def says that to call such people racist – because they are Israelis – is antisemitic.  They are Israelis who aren’t racist.
Congress we should be endorsing this definition, not condemning it.
We are going to have a general secretary election.  We need to take care.  OUr union is never more in the public eye.  do we want to make this a bit issue?
Des Freedman, Goldsmiths.  “As a Jewish member of this union I urge you to support.”
By conflating justificed criticism of Israel with antisemitism it restricts our ability to make justified criticism.
One example:  the NEC of NUS recently passed a motion calling for freedom for Palestine.  The reaction by the outgoing president was to promise to campaign against it and referred to it as a form of hate speech.  The point of something like that which was much debated, reflecting on the events for example in gAza, over a thousand people who were killed – adopting the EUMC definition unnecessarily curtails our ability to intervene, to call for justice, to call for freedom for Palestinians.
We shouled be firm in opposition to a-s.  EUMC prevents us from doing that.  I urge support.
1526.  Another speech.  This union should not be challenging antisemitism by rejecting a definition.  We should propose our own definition if we want to speak on this.
EUMC does not use the definition.
1527.  Sean Wallis.  Definitions include things and exclude things.  Read the definition and you’ll see how we need to be clear.  My branch defines antisemitism as a form of racism and so we oppose it.  The only way of doing this concretely is in concrete circumstances.  This elaborate extensive definition is unhelpful.    I was libelled 2 years ago.  There are people in this room who participated in this libel.  As a jew I find it offensive that the term antisemitism should be used in this way.  Throw it out .  It is not a definition. It is not working.
Ronnie Fraser point of information.
The EUMC definition itself.  It is used by law enforcement authorities throughout the world for guidance to recognise antisemitic statements and acts.  It is recommended to be used in academic and the unions by the Parliamentary Conference of 2009.
Sue Blackwell:  I think Ronnie just made a speech in favour of the m0tion – that’s why we should be worried about it.
EUMC has been replaced.  successor organisation have no plans for any further development of it.  the latest publication doesn’t mention the definition.  They’ve dumped it because it is not fit for purpose.
Whether we need an alternative definition.  I recommend Brian Klug’s “hostility towards Jews as Jews”.
Quoting richard Kuper: the strong fight back by israel and its supporters has been sometimes crude… the EUMC has been effective.  inadequate, yet it is increasingly presented as THE definition of antisemitism, it cannot bear this weight.
The vote was overwhelmingly carried.  4 people, I think, voted against.
After the vote, Ronnie was very upset.  “I feel physically sick and so upset because of their racism,” he told me.  He was close to tears.
This a good result and I'm glad that Sue Blackwell and Mike Cushman managed to cover some of the main issues, especially the genealogy of the working definition which came originally from the American Jewish Committee, an Israel lobby group.

At the moment there are 8 comments on the Engage site of which Tony Greenstein's is the latest.  Here it is:

Tony Greenstein Says:

This is the best news for a long time. Congratulations are in order. Now instead of accusing everyone who supports the Palestiniains of ‘anti-Semitism’ and thereby giving a boost to the real anti-Semites like Gilad Atzmon and co. we will be able to sort out the wheat from the Zionist chaff.
Ironically the EUMC Definition, coming as it did from the AJC, was itself anti-Semitic, in suggestion that to deny ‘the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ was anti-semitic. Only Zionists and anti-Semites pretend that Jews from India to Argentina to France comprise one people i.e. race.
And why is drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis anti-semitic? Israeli leaders and Zionists do it with monotonous regularity or is it only allowed for racists to make the comparison? Didn’t eg Matan Vilnai, deputy Defence Minister promise a ‘little Shoah’ not long before the slaughter of 1,400 people in Gaza?
I agree that ‘holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.’ But this has never been applied to Zionists and the Board of Deputies who continually proclaim that the Jewish community in Britain is behind Israeli war crimes.
well done to Sue Blackwell, Tom Hickey et al.
Yup, well done those people!

The reactionary Egyptian government DID NOT open the Rafah crossing

While most gush over the public relation stunt pulled by the lousy, reactionary, zionist, neoliberal, comprador government of post Mubarak Egypt, it is worth noting the Rafah passage remains tightly controlled in coordination with Israel.
Egypt on Saturday reopened the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip to people but not goods after keeping it closed for more than four years.

It will be open to people for eight hours daily except Fridays and public holidays People under 18 or older than 40 will require only a visa to pass, but those between 18 and 40 will still need security clearance, crossing officials say.

Commercial traffic will continue to have to pass through border points with Israel, which controls all other access points to the area.(RFI)

The most important outcome of the "new" Egyptian policy is that Israel continues to decide how many calories people in Gaza ought to consume. Goods cannot pass through Rafah.

The second most important outcome is that Israel's policy of singling out young men, which has been in force for years in Jerusalem (men between 18 and 45 cannot visit the holy sites of Islam in Jerusalem), is now exported to Gaza. What has happened is that the "new" Egypt is becoming even more like the "old" Israel in relation to Palestinian liberty. 

Finally, there is the issue of the security clearances. The file of every Palestinian man from Gaza who wants to travel will be sent by the Egyptian security services to their supervisors in Israel, to be approved or rejected.

What did change is that the new Egyptian government, unlike the Mubarak government, is afraid of its people. It therefore must use the technology of the spectacle, which Western governments are so well trained in, to confuse the people. Thus, we had a public relation stunt, consisting of "the opening of the Rafah border crossing," playing in newspapers and networks, with dramatic music and pomp. And Israel, playing its role in the spectacle, reacted with anger and fear (which is directed at Israeli Jews, who need to be scared out of their wits by the mere thought that people in Gaza would enjoy anything.) But Israel has nothing to fear from the "new" Egyptian government. That government is still Israel's best ally in the region. 

Then there is the Egyptian people. The people, as an upper-class Englishman once said, is "a many headed monster" that causes folks like Netanyahu, Obama and Tantawi to wet their beds at night. Whether the people will be fooled remains to be seen.

Hassan Hijazi, the prophet of the Palestine to come

Rahela Mizrahi, a radical Arab Jewish writer, welcomed Hijazi from Tel-Aviv as "the first returning refugee":

Hassan Hijazi reminded Israelis that he is not going to give up his hometown of Jaffa. For now, Tel Aviv exists as a European colonial bubble protected by the human shield of Sderot, the violent settlers in the West Bank and Jewish-Arab Mizrahim pushed by white gentrification to settlements such as Maale Adumin and Pisgat Zeev. But that bubble, surrounded by fences and more fences, is soon to pop.

Welcome home to Jaffa, Hassan Hijazi — the first returning refugee!

(Time to tear down the fences, Rahela Mizrahi, The Electronic Intifada, Tel Aviv 28 May 2011)

May 28, 2011

UK equalities chief responds to zionist lobby on working definition

The story so far is that the Fundamental Rights Agency (formerly known as the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia or EUMC) came up with a working definition of antisemitism that appeared to preclude most or all criticism of the State of Israel. Check out EUMC in the search bar. Well the Universities and Colleges Union has a motion to its congress on 30 May rejecting the working definition out of hand. The Jewish Leadership Council, a coalition of Jewish lobby groups, has written to the leader of the UK's Equalities and Human Rights Commission. On that, here is the Jewish Chronicle:
The Jewish Leadership Council has written to the equalities watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, to express its concern at moves within the Universities and Colleges Union to reject the widely-accepted definition of antisemitism.
Well Trevor Phillips has replied and David Hirsh of the Engage website has reported, kind of, on the reply thus:
He says that he is “surprised” that UCU had brought the motion on the definition of antisemitism “without consulting the EHRC” at all.
He expects UCU’s National Executive Committee to discuss the motion with the EHRC as Britain’s National Human Rights Institution, even if it passes
 EHRC stands by the MacPhearson Report, which requires organisations to start from the perception of the victim. Trevor Phillips says:
 ”..if the object of harrasment or attack regards her treatment as being anti-semitic, even if the perpetrator maintains that their action is politically motivated, the presumption is that the victim’s perception is what defines the incident”.
 On the issue of reporting incidents -  both for students on campus and academics inside UCU – he says: “Nothing should be able to prevent Jewish students (or any other group, for that matter) being able to complain of harrasment, racism or anti-semitism”
 He suggests that there could be legal problems under Human Rights and Equality law if the motion is fully enacted.
What Hirsh reports is almost all accurate in that Phillips did say most of those things, but let's have that last para again:
He suggests that there could be legal problems under Human Rights and Equality law if the motion is fully enacted.
Now the only thing that I could find in Phillips's letter that looked anything like that was this last paragraph:

Finally, in practice, the international human rights treaties like the UN's Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Human Rights Act and the UK's mew exemplar Equality Act 2010 give us the guidance we need on this matter, in particular in equality duties imposed on the latter. Nothing should prevent Jewish students (or any other group, for that matter) being able to complain of harrassment, racism, or anti-semitism.  Such complaints should be taken extremely seriously by every institution; and it would be hard to imagine any institution which did not provide appropriate remedies for students' complaints being able to comply with its legal duties under the 2010 Act.
Unless I am missing something, and taking the letter as a whole, Phillips appears to be saying that Jews can and should expect protection from racism regardless of the UCU motion.  And look at the bit that Hirsh doesn't mention at all:
neither we (EHRC) nor the EUMC has ever considered the EUMC's working definition to be wholly definitive; therefore its retention or abandonment should not be seen as an indication of what should be regarded as anti-racist [sic] or anti-semitic conduct.
Now Phillips could be saying anything about the working definition itself. He could think it contains too much or too little. He could think it is plain wrong or even right but he does not seem to be saying that its abandonment could cause "legal problems under Human Rights and Equality law if the motion is fully enacted."

Overall, whilst it would be nice to see Trevor Phillips distancing himself more from the working definition, his letter is hardly a ringing endorsement of it. Hopefully, if the JLC pushes harder the EHRC will have to openly dismiss the working definition just as, hopefully, the UCU is going to in just a couple of days.

Gil Scott Heron April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron died on Friday 27 May 2011.  The Guardian.

May 27, 2011

Cameron tiptoes away from the Jewish National Fund

UK premier, David Cameron has quietly dropped his honorary patronage of the Jewish National Fund.  This is the first time in years that the JNF has had no UK premier as an honorary patron though former PMs, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are still honorary patrons.  They are mercifully no longer PMs.  Here's Scottish PSC:

Cameron drops Israel 'racist' charity
27 May 2011
Stop the JNF Campaign: Media Release
Prime Minister David Cameron has quietly terminated his status as an Honorary Patron of the controversial Jewish National Fund (JNF).  His office confirmed he had “stepped down”.  For many years leaders of all three main political parties became Honorary Patrons of the JNF by convention.  According to Dick Pitt, a spokesperson for the Stop the JNF Campaign, “Cameron was the only leader of the three major parties remaining as a JNF Patron.  This decline in political support for the JNF at the highest levels of the political tree may be a sign of the increasing awareness in official quarters that a robust defence of the activities of the JNF may not be sustainable.” 
The news of Cameron’s move has reached Palestinians in refugee camps, people whose land is under the control of the JNF.  Salah Ajarma in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp was “delighted to hear the news that the British Prime Minister has decided to withdraw his support for this sinister organisation involved in ethnic cleansing. My village, Ajjur, was taken by force from my family and given to the JNF who used money from JNF UK to plant the British Park on its ruins. For the Palestinians who were evicted from their villages and have been prevented from returning, Cameron's withdrawal is another victory on the road to achieving justice and freedom for the Palestinians".
The JNF chairman Samuel Hayek defends the work of the organisation saying, “for over 100 years we have had one mission: to settle and develop the Land of Israel” as pioneers of the “historic Zionist dream”.  The registered charity claims their work, especially in the Negev region of Israel, deals with “the rising demographic challenges faced by Israel”.  In recent months the JNF’s activities in the Negev have received extensive international media coverage, linking them to the demolition of Palestinian Bedouin villages and confiscation of the land of the village.  Campaigners report that “even Israeli courts have criticised the JNF as an organisation that discriminates against non-Jews and there is mounting evidence of the JNF’s involvement in Israel’s programme to change the ethnic composition of areas inside 1948 Israel as well as in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.  It is not acceptable that such an organisation is allowed to operate in the UK, much less to enjoy charity status”.
Now taking my earlier post together with this one, if the EUMC working definition of antisemitism were to be accepted it could, subject to overall context, be construed as denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination" since the activities of the JNF are clearly necessary for establishing and maintaining the State of Israel as a state for Jews. If campaigning against the JNF is ok, then the EUMC working definition is definitely not ok.

The Anti-Definition League?

Things seem to be hotting up over the former European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) on Racism and Xenophobia's (now called the Fundamental Rights Agency) so-called working definition of antisemitism. I reported earlier on the motion being presented at the Universities and Colleges Union to reject the EUMC working definition. Well now the Jewish Chronicle is reporting on a "fightback" by various zionist groups to defend their attempt at stifling criticism of the State of Israel.

In a tough statement, a spokesman for the Board [of Deputies of British Jews], the JLC [Jewish Leadership Council] and the CST [Community Security Trust] said: "After several years of promoting discriminatory boycotts and ignoring the resignation of dozens of Jewish members, UCU has never taken claims of antisemitism in the union seriously. Now, in a final insult to its Jewish members, UCU is cynically redefining the meaning of 'antisemitism' so it never has to face up to its own deep-rooted prejudices and problems.
"The joint representations by senior communal leaders to the leaders of UCU, the EHRC and the TUC send a clear signal that our community will not sit back and allow further red lines to be crossed as the boycotters unleash moves designed to curtail the rights of British Jews on our campuses."
Let's just have another little look at the section of the working definition that troubles Palestine solidarity types:

• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, for example by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

• Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (for example claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.

• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

The EUMC Definition goes on to state that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Now I have always understood antisemitism to be racism against Jews so clearly point 3 could be considered antisemitic if there was some agreement as to the symbols. And point 5 is definitely antisemitic in that all Jews cannot be held responsible for anything. But points 1, 2 and 4 are definitely not antisemitic unless of course you do hold all Jews responsible for the State of Israel. So this redefinition of antisemitism that is being presented by the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust (and also Engage) as the definition is itself antisemitic and is itself a cynical redefinition. Still, the pro-zionist Jewish establishment seems determined to get its own way on this one so it could run and run for a while.

A big question for me is what they intend to do with the working definition if they do get it established as conventional wisdom or even in law regarding hate crime and incitement. We could see lots of Jews being rounded up for antisemitism and all for speaking out against the last of the colonial settler states.

May 26, 2011

Zio-Nazi comparisons update

I've only just seen a letter in yesterday's Independent responding to this nasty little one from the increasingly unhinged Professor Geoffrey Alderman:
The Palestine Mandate of 1922, read together with Article 80 of the UN Charter, confers on Jews the right of settlement in areas of that Mandate that subsequently fell under Jordanian control.
These areas of course include East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The government of Israel is therefore fully entitled – indeed obliged – to permit and facilitate Jewish settlement there.
Those who oppose this settlement need to reflect on whether they are not indeed, at least in some sense, "carrying on Hitler's work".
Professor Geoffrey Alderman
London NW9
And here's the response:

Professor Alderman (letters, 23 May) says that any opposition to Israeli settlements is "continuing Hitler's work". Nazi policies included Lebensraum (with forced evictions to make way for people of a specific ethnicity), ghettoisation, and withholding human rights based on race. I think the comparison to Nazism is gratuitous, offensive, and irrelevant. But if one is brazen enough to make it, one should at least think it through fully.
James Ingram
London SE1
It's funny how some zionists jump through hoops to accuse others of trivialising the holocaust and yet when one of their own commits the offence we don't hear a peep out of them.

May 25, 2011

More bad news from Israel

There is an update of the Greg Philo and Mike Berry book, Bad News from Israel titled More Bad News from Israel. Here's former BBC reporter, Tim Llewellyn in The Guardian:

Philo and Berry quote the BBC correspondent Paul Adams, a Middle East expert: what is missing from the coverage, he says, is the view that the Palestinians are engaged in a war of national liberation, trying to throw off an occupying force. Any Israeli casualty is headline news, shown in high quality images. BBC teams are based in West Jerusalem, de facto Israeli territory, and are on hand. Arab casualties may be shown in reports of a funeral, usually agency film, the victim anonymous. The Israelis, it seems, are for the BBC "people like us". The Arabs are "the other".
Racist bias at the beeb? Surely not. Here's the beeb's response published by The Guardian at the bottom of the Lllewellyn article:

BBC News endeavours to report on all matters in the Middle East – as elsewhere – impartially, objectively and accurately.
We have extensive editorial guidelines which all reporters and producers are required to observe.
In a highly charged political atmosphere any impartial and accountable broadcaster will rightly find itself under scrutiny by all shades of opinion.
In the Middle East debate there are organised, motivated and effective lobby groups on both sides of the argument.
We listen to their concerns and act on them where we think they are justified, but in doing so we bear in mind that our audiences expect us to remain independent of political pressure.
Although Tim Llewellyn was indeed a BBC correspondent some years ago, we note that he subsequently was active for a period with the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).
Aha! So he'd be with "the other" then...

May 21, 2011

"Working definition" update

The UK's Universities and Colleges Union's congress takes place on 30 May 2011.  Under the Business of the equality committee there is a motion on the former European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia's so-called "working definition of antisemitism":

70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism - National Executive Committee

Congress notes with concern that the so-called 'EUMC working definition of antisemitism', while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.
Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.
Congress resolves:
  1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
  2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
  3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel's past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.

Needless to say, the UK's ADL wannabees at the Community Security Trust and Engage are none too happy.

May 18, 2011

Israel's Herrenvolk police slaps a Palestinian lawyer

At the end of this clip, Herrenvolk police officer Kobi Bachar, deputy commander of the Galilee District Police, slaps a Palestinan lawyer after she asked him why he is arresting protesters (972mag). Of course, by the macho apartheid rules of the state also known as "the only feminist, queer friendly, democratic, pluralistic haven in the Middle East (TM)", she's asking for it. She is, after all, both a Palestinian, and a woman, and she dares speak to a police officer. For all we know, she might have even looked him in the eyes when she questioned his authority to enforce the rule that Jews rule. I am sure the poor man needed counseling to overcome the sheer trauma.

In an effort to save readers time I provide below copy that can be directly incorporated into New York Times and Washington Post articles:
In a recent flare up of violence (1) in Arab towns in Israel, an Arab (2) protester, a woman according to some Palestinian sources (3), hit the palm of a police officer with her cheek. The police officer was briefly hospitalized but his life is reportedly not in danger. Some Middle East experts (4) see the hand of the Iranian government behind the attack (5).

  1. because normal repression is not violent, only opposition to repression can be violent.

  2. as in the crowd scenes in "The Mummy."

  3. To prevent bias, we send only blind reporters to the Middle East

  4. the reporter's brother in law

  5. what else could cause the happy and pampered Palestinian citizens of Israel to take the streets?

JC on the peacemakers

That's the Jewish Chronicle, not Jesus Christ. Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian's woman in Jerusalem has just got wind of Geoffrey Alderman's op-ed piece celebrating the murder of ISM activist, Vittorio Arrigoni:

I was sent a link this week to a piece published in the Jewish Chronicle by historian Geoffrey Alderman, the opening sentence of which I found pretty shocking.
Under the headline This Was No Peace Activist, Alderman wrote:

"Few events - not even the execution of Osama bin Laden - have caused me greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called 'peace activist' Vittorio Arrigoni."

Arrigoni, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, was murdered in Gaza last month after being abducted by Islamic extremists. He was strangled with a plastic cord. Hamas subsequently killed those responsible for Arrigoni's death.
His murder, wrote Alderman, "was immediately pounced upon by the western media as an affront to the civilised world". This is indeed the case; many newspapers - including the Guardian - ran stories andprofiles describing Arrigoni's commitment to the Palestinian cause and the extremist stance of those who killed him.
But, wrote Alderman, "the truth is very different. Vittorio Arrigoni, a disciple of the International Solidarity Movement, had travelled to Gaza to assist in the breaking of the Israeli naval blockade. As a supporter of Hamas he was a consummate Jew-hater."
He said Arrigoni's Facebook page - in Italian - contained "explicit anti-Jewish imagery".
I asked Alderman - who has occasionally contributed to the Guardian - whether he regretted recording his "pleasure" at Arrigoni's death. "It's still my view," he told me on the phone from London. "He was a Jew-hater like Adolf Hitler. Yes, he deserved to die for being a Jew-hater. I rejoiced in the death of a Jew-hater. I have no regrets."
Jeff Halper, an Israeli activist and academic, who knew Arrigoni well, said Alderman's charges against him were "outrageous".
"Sometimes things are so outrageous there simply isn't a response. Vik [Arrigoni] was unique. He was political and he had strong opinions. But the idea that he would differentiate between someone Jewish and someone non-Jewish - there has never been a hint of that."
Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, told me he had no qualms about publishing the piece. "I have no problem at all with publishing it. I don't agree with [Alderman], it's not my view - it's his."
He rejected the description of Arrigoni as a "peace activist". "He was a member of the ISM, for God's sake. That's not peace activism, that's hard core Palestinian terror."
Neta Golan, an Israeli founder of the ISM, denied the organisation supported terror attacks or backed Hamas. "The ISM supports the avenue of non-violent and popular resistance," she told me. "It is a grassroots group, and we will work with anyone who wants to organise non-violent resistance. The ISM does not have a position on internal Palestinian politics."
She also rejected suggestions that Arrigoni was anti-Semitic. "It was so obvious he wasn't a racist. Absolutely he was not anti-Semitic."
I never met Arrigoni and I don't know what his views (if any) on Jews, as opposed to his views on Israel, were. Attempts to conflate opposition to Israeli policies with anti-Semitism are not new.
Scenes of Palestinian militants handing out sweets to celebrate suicide bombings or other deadly attacks are familiar - and sickening.
Now Alderman's rejoicing in the death of a pro-Palestinian activist seems to me a new and repugnant development.
Comments are still open for now.

Thanks to Senhal in the comments in an earlier thread.

May 15, 2011

Israel commemorates the establishment of apartheid 63 years ago with massacre

Four people were reportedly shot dead by Israel Defense Forces troops Sunday as they opened fire on large numbers of infiltrators trying to breachDozens of Palestinians crossed the Israeli border and entered the village of Majdal Shams in a Nakba Day protest, May 15, 2011. Syria's southern border with Israel. Another four people were said to have been killed on the Lebanese side of its shared frontier with Israel, as Palestinian protests for the annual Nakba Day, which mourns the creation of the State of Israel, took hold across the region.

In Majdal Shams, which runs along the Israel-Syria border, scores of Palestinian refugees from Syria spilled into the town. The Magen David Adom rescue service said about a dozen others had been wounded. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed opening fire on infiltrators.(Haaretz)

Israeli soldiers respond to unarmed civil protest in the only way Israel knows, deadly violence. This coordinated protest by Palestinians refugees happened on four borders. But the Egyptian border was apparently quiet thanks to the the Mubarak clones who still rule Egypt. The Egyptian military government, still eager to serve the US and its unhinged mini-me, Israel, blocked the roads to Sinai, because "the timing was inappropriate." But the time is always appropriate for sucking up to the empire.

The Israeli press called the protesters "infiltrators," reviving a term used in the fifties for the thousands of Palestinians refugees who tried to get back to their homes after the expulsion. Between 1949 and 1954, Israeli forces, with shoot to kill rules, murdered about 5,000 Palestinians caught near the borders.

The term was offensive already then, declaring people "infiltrators" in their own houses, fields, and country. But today the term is also misleading. Those murdered in the fifties were mostly trying to be invisible and to get home. The eight murdered today were involved in a direct action commemorating the Nakba, inspired by the massive Arab awakening that has swept the region from Tunisia to Yemen. Like Assad, Qaddafi, and the kings of the Gulf, Israeli generals believe that if they kill enough people the protests will peter out. One cannot say that this strategy never works. It is a double-down strategy. Like every double-down strategy, whether it works or not depends on the quality of credit possessed by the player. If the defiance of the people remains steadfast, or, as often happens when people are martyred, grows stronger, sooner or later the carnage is too much for key allies and constituencies, and then it is over for the regime. But the Israeli Junta believes it has enough credit to withstand any bloodbath. Given Israel's dependence on the good grace of its Western supporters, we all have a role to play in seeing that it doesn't.

Apartheid is Murder. The time for ending it is yesterday.


16 dead counted so far. at least 90 injured. All dead in massacres on the Syrian and Lebanese borders. There was also a massive protest in Ramallah, Amman, Gaza, El-Arish.

The Lebanese government and army, like the Egyptian army, and like Hamas, like the PA police, tried to stop the protests. This is Shimon Peres's vision of the "New Middle East": all governments working together to defend Israel from popular anger.

The only wrinkle in this idyllic peace of the knaves is the people.

May 11, 2011

Hitchens and Chomsky: So this is war

Noam Chomsky issued a statement in Guernica magazine shortly after the American invasion of Pakistan and the summary execution of Osama bin Laden. Just to give a taste, here's the opening bit:
It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.
And a couple of days ago Christopher Hitchens issued a counter statement in Slate magazine. To give you a taste, the title is Chomsky's Follies.  He quotes from the piece above thus:
We have no more reason to credit Osama Bin Laden's claim of responsibility, he [Chomsky] states, than we would have to believe Chomsky's own claim to have won the Boston Marathon.
Here Hitchens has directly equated "rather like" with "no more reason". Rather like is not no more. No more is the same. Rather like is similar. And in a forensic sense, as an excuse for an invasion and an execution, bin Laden's "confession" has no more validity than the claim that Chomsky won the Boston marathon.

But what made me do this post was Hitchens's resort to what certain people said at the time of 9/11.
I can't immediately decide whether or not this is an improvement on what Chomsky wrote at the time. Ten years ago, apparently sharing the consensus that 9/11 was indeed the work of al-Qaida, he wrote that it was no worse an atrocity than President Clinton's earlier use of cruise missiles against Sudan in retaliation for the bomb attacks on the centers of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. (I haven't been back to check on whether he conceded that those embassy bombings were also al-Qaida's work to begin with.)
I don't see any evidence there for Chomsky "sharing the consensus".  What he said does not amount to "shar[ing] the consensus".

Hitchens goes on to take a swip at Michael Moore for what he said closer to the time of 9/11:
At the Telluride Film Festival in 2002, I found myself debating Michael Moore, who, a whole year after the attacks, maintained that Bin Laden was "innocent until proved guilty" (and hadn't been proven guilty). Except that he had, at least according to Moore one day after the attacks, when he wrote that: "WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!"
But the quote doesn't support the idea that bin Laden had been found guilty by Moore "at least according to Moore one day after the attacks".

But since he is resorting to what people said back in 2001 or 2002, let's have a look at what Christopher Hitchens himself had to say in The Guardian published two days after 9/11 though obviously written the day before:
One day into the post-World Trade Centre era, and the question "how" is still taking precedence over the question "why". At the presidential level, the two questions appear to be either crudely synthesised or plain confused, since George Bush has taken to describing the mass murder in New York and Washington DC as "not just an act of terrorism but an act of war". This strongly implies that he knows who is responsible; an assumption for which he doesn't care to make known the evidence. Instant opinion polls show the same cognitive dissonance at the mass level. Most people, when asked if they agree with the president about the "war" proposition, reply in the affirmative. But in follow-up questions, they counsel extreme caution about retaliation "until all the facts are in". This means, in ordinary words, that they have not the least idea whether they are at war or not.

Over the years since the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, the public has become tolerably familiar with the idea that there are Middle Easterners of various shades and stripes who do not like them. The milestones of this - the marine barracks in Beirut, the Gulf war, the destruction of PanAm flight 101 - actually include a previous attack on the WTC in 1993. And on that occasion, the men convicted of the assault turned out to have backgrounds in a western-sponsored guerrilla war - actually a jihad - in Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden had pretty good name-recognition among American news consumers even before Tuesday's trauma. He's already survived a cruise-missile attack ordered by President Clinton in 1999 (in the same cycle of attacks that destroyed a Sudanese aspirin factory in the supposed guise of a nerve-gas facility). Bin Laden is perhaps unlikely to die in his bed, but his repeated identification as a "Saudi millionaire" - we thought the Saudi Arabians were on our side - makes consistency in demonisation rather difficult; the image somehow doesn't compute.
But of course, that was the old Hitchens. The new Hitchens of the Slate article even managed to misrepresent the position of the increasingly deranged David Shayler. Shayler was imprisoned in France and the UK for blowing the whistle on "mismanagement and incompetence" at the UK secret service, MI5.  Here's Hitchens in Slate mag:
 As far as I know, only leading British "Truther" David Shayler, a former intelligence agent who also announced his own divinity, has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all. (It was apparently by means of a hologram that the widespread delusion was created on television.)
Now follow the links to the New Statesman and the Daily Mail. From the New Statesman:
They [including David Shayler] believe there weren't any planes on 9/11, just missiles wrapped in holograms
And from the Daily Mail:
in recent years he's been scratching a living giving talks to conspiracy theorists about the September 11 attacks - last year he was ridiculed for insisting that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre were brought down by a U.S. Government conspiracy using "missiles surrounded by holograms made to look like planes".
Ok, he's lost the plot and is claiming that he is G-d and that the World Trade Center was felled by hologram wrapped missiles. But that is not the same as saying that he:
has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all.
Now that must be down to sloppiness on Hitchens's part. There is no reason to verbal up anything David Shayler has said in recent years. There are though many reasons for a born again imperialist to rubbish the likes of Chomsky and Moore, though I am no great fan of either.

Hitchens has completely failed to make a case against Chomsky or Moore and he even managed the get it wrong about Shayler. But how did he forget his own take in The Guardian on the appalling events of 9/11? Apostasy's a funny old business.

By the way, The Guardian article published two days after 9/11 was titled, So this is war.